A recent study at the Eating Disorder Unit of Helsinki University Central Hospital sought out to discover the prevalence of autoimmune diseases in people with anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder.
Patients with an eating disorder that were treated between 1995 and 2010 were compared with general population controls and were matched for the age, sex, and place of residence.
Researchers found that patients suffering from an eating disorder were at higher risk of developing an autoimmune disease such as type 1 diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease. Researchers also found that patients with an autoimmune disease were more likely to develop a mood disorder such a schizophrenia.
Dr. Anu Raeyuori from the University of Helsinki says “”We found that of patients with eating disorders, 8.9% had been diagnosed with one or more autoimmune diseases. Of the control individuals, the number was 5.4%,”
The high prevalence of autoimmune diseases among patients with eating disorders was not solely due to endocrinological and gastroenterological diseases. Even when these two indications were excluded, there was an increase in prevalence among patientsprior to the eating disorder treatment and after the follow-up.
“Our findings support the link between immune-mediated mechanisms and development of eating disorders. Future studies are needed to explore the risk of autoimmune diseases and immunological mechanisms in individuals with eating disorders and their family members,” Raevuori afirms.